The Jewish community of St. Petersburg is organizing an open chess tournament to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the city’s largest synagogue.
Citing several renowned Jewish chess masters — including Boris Gelfond; Wilhelm Steinitz; Emanuel Lasker; Garry Kasparov and Bobby Fischer — the organizers wrote on the community’s website last week that, “It is clear that chess is our Jewish boxing.”
The tournament will be open to all and held on Nov. 3 at a club situated approximately one mile east of Saint Petersburg’s Grand Choral Synagogue, which is Russia’s largest Jewish house of worship, organizers also wrote.
On Sunday, several dozen Jews attended another anniversary celebration at the synagogue itself, which saw the introduction of a new Torah scroll into its 155-foot tall hall.
The event coincided with the city’s third Limmud Jewish learning conference — a three-day event which offered approximately 400 participants hundreds of lectures and activities. Many Limmud FSU participants also visited the synagogue for the opening of the anniversary celebrations.
Roman Kogan, chief operation officer for Limmud FSU, noted that St. Petersburg has a large Jewish community of 40,000 to 100,000 Jews, according to various estimates. “But unlike Odessa and many other cities in the former Russian empire, it does not have deep Jewish roots,” added Kogan, chief operation officer for Limmud FSU. “The Jewish revival we are seeing here is therefore all the more remarkable.”
Kogan, who earlier this month co-organized the similarly-sized Limmud FSU event in Odessa, said the event in St. Petersburg was “of a high intellectual calibre and very cultural, as one would expect from a Jewish learning conference held at what many consider Russia’s cultural capital.”